Latin footwork and... bunions.

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by Twilight_Elena, Nov 30, 2007.

  1. Twilight_Elena

    Twilight_Elena Well-Known Member

    Take any picture of a Latin dancer (especially pronounced in ladies). There's a significant amount of pressure on the inside of the big toe to produce a good looking leg line. For instance (off the top of my head, I can probably find tons of pictures):
    http:// www. takadance.com/images/t_TAKA-LATIN-236.jpg
    http:// www. ymdance.net/hi-res/DSC_7606.JPG
    I've been feeling lots of pain on the bunion area. When I get home, I have to keep my hand knuckles between my toes for a few minutes to put them back into the normal position. In the past few days, I happened to wear street heels and boots (which I don't normally do) and I now feel like my feet are deformed. I'm considering buying those toe stretchers.
    I am not even 20 yet, which means that if I keep dancing, I have at the very least 10 years of hard foot work ahead of me. Am I doomed to a life of deformed feet with bunions? Pressing the big toe inside is the right technique, according to my coaches... If it's already hurting, though, I shudder to think what it will be like in 5 years... Help!
  2. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl New Member

    For me, the real problem is shoes that bend the big toe in toward the other toes. A bunion is acutally a dislocation of the big toe joint. Just putting downward pressure on the inside of the foot shouldn't cause that, but if the joint is already stressed by being bent, then it can be a big problem. Some people are more prone to bunions; it tends to run in families.

    There have been other threads on this issue. Various solutions have been suggested, including:

    -- finding a shoe style that doesn't bend your big toe
    -- Yoga Toes or other toe stretchers
    -- wearing toe separaters that help keep your toes straight--won't work in latin shoes (maybe you could tape them in place for practice, will look weird, but might help), but can be worn in your regular shoes
    -- various bandages and nighttime splints that keep your joint in the right place

    You do need to take care of your feet! I hope you can figure out something that will keep them healthy.
  3. Angel HI

    Angel HI Active Member

    WG is regularly a good one for advice. Years ago, a coach told me that I danced latin too hard I would rip the soles from the shoes in the big toe area). Of course, she was right, and I eventually developed an issue. Thankfully, I was able to correct it. The point...to WG's good advice, may I add that you should take a look at how you are using the feet. The beautiful leg lines that you see are largely illusions. One should not have excessive pressure on the toe joint, as it might appear. When danced properly, though there is a placement of the big toe to the floor for asthetics, the rolling from an inside edge begins at the flat of the ball of the foot...a very subtle, yet extremely important note.

    With proper care and attention to the kinesthetics, you will have many happy years ahead.
  4. Twilight_Elena

    Twilight_Elena Well-Known Member

    Wish someone had told me that. My coaches insisted on putting an enormous amount of pressure there, and one of them showed me his dance shoes which were worn out and with holes where the inner big toe area is. Now, either they're bent on destroying my feet or they somehow were insinuating that the pressure doesn't come from the foot but from the leg (knee? hip joint? Probably.) and therefore shouldn't hurt the foot. If they did, I didn't get that memo. :rolleyes:
    Any more info and advice on how to do that pesky inner foot pressure is welcome. *hint hint*
  5. Twilight_Elena

    Twilight_Elena Well-Known Member

    Oh, and another thing. My Latin shoes are definitely not causing this. My boots and street heels do have a tendency to go pointy, but it hadn't bothered me before I put a lot of stress on the big toe joint.
  6. Angel HI

    Angel HI Active Member

    It is really difficult to tell you...better to be shown. I will try. Begin with this simple exercise. Stand weighted over one foot. Positioning the weightless foot as if you were going to push sand away, slowly step sidewards. Before you reach the extent of the step, begin pressing downward with the flat of the ball of the standing foot. This will lift, in a way, the body to complete the step.

    Because the body is lifted over the moving foot, weight to the ball joint is displaced to the flat of the inside edge of the ball of the foot. Rolling onto the foot, finish the movement by positioning the departed foot onto an inside edge, and pulling, as if scooping up remaining sand, the foot to close.

    When done correctly, one is able to acheive the highly pointed foot lines of contemporary latin, while redirecting the movement and weight from the joint to the fleshy inside edge. Callouses will certainly develop, and need to be watched and cared for. However, this technique has saved me from certain injury and early ending to my latin dancing, and has, no doubt, aided in my becoming known as a latin dancer/coach. Again, I realize that this writing is crude. As mentioned, some things are better shown. But, I hope that, in some small way, it helps.
  7. katandmouse

    katandmouse New Member

    I would answer no. I starting developing bunions and the pain landed me in the podiatrist's office. He gave me custom orthotics and gel braces to wear around the big toe and ball of the foot. But nothing helped as well as some simple stretches and exercises. The goal in my case was to bring the arch of the foot up and by doing so, that would take less weight off the big toe. The muscle you may need to stretch is the outside calf muscle. Let's say it's the right foot. You'd sit on the floor and take a hold of the opposite, outside edge of the right foot with the left hand. The hand is actually going under the foot and rotating the foot out as it pulls the leg across the body. You should feel a nice stretch. Repeat with the other leg. A lengthened muscles allows that arch to come up. Then you might also have strengthen the same muscle. This all depends on your own unique conditions so it's best to find a professional who understand biomechanics and muscle balancing, and that is most likely NOT a podiastrist. I was lucky to find someone in the Pasadena area. 2 1/2 years ago my podiatrist told me he'd see me in a few years for surgery. Today I'm painfree.
  8. Miss Silly

    Miss Silly Active Member

    After much searching, i believe this older thread is exactly what i'm looking for LOL. The problem is, i don't really understand the wonderful examples listed above.

    Right now i'm putting those Dr. Scholl's bunion cushions on my feet and it's helping with the comfort level....but the bad news is that i obviously go through a pair every time i wear my dance shoes. And if it's a technique thing... well... i'd certainly like to work on that vs. using a 'baindaid' solution (haha pun intended).

    Can anyone help clarify this please? I would be very grateful! :)
  9. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    Miss Silly, as a latin dancer my experience has been this....

    As Angel pointed out above, I do not use pressure on the inner edge of the big toe when I transfer my weight from one leg to another. I actually put most of the pressure on the bottom of the foot at the ball of the foot (metatarsal) area between the big and second toe! This is true for me on either the standing or receiving leg/foot. There are times that it LOOKS like I have weight on the inner edge of the big toe, but it's an illusion. In my latin leg line (back or side leg), by the time I get to full extension - because of the turn out and the slight "winging" of the foot/ankle, what weight is left on the back leg is actually on the bottom flat part of the toe.

    And second, take very good care of your feet. I have a rolfer who looks after mine, and has the skill and knowledge to help realign my feet when needed. With all the time we spend dancing hard in heels, it's imperative to pay attention to the care of your feet (which also includes care of your calves). I have been given stretches to do before and after dancing, and am careful to take a break and take my shoes off to stretch every hour and a half of practice.
  10. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    p.s. if you take a look at pictures of someone like Yulia Z in side latin lines, and take a really close look at her feet, you will see her big toe is mostly on the flat bottom side.
  11. TwoRightFeet

    TwoRightFeet Active Member

    You can also get sesamoiditis from putting too much pressure on the inside edge of the ball of the foot. The sesamoid bones are pea-sized bones embedded in the tendon surrounding the big toe. Because the bones are so small they can be easily damaged. It might be worth seeing a foot doctor to determine whether it's a bunion problem, sesamoid problem, or something else, and what what the appropriate treatment would be before they incur any more damage.
  12. Miss Silly

    Miss Silly Active Member

    That's a very interesting point, TRF. I'm looking into this....Thanks for bringing that up! I do love to study physiology and human kinetics. Your post speaks deeply to my inner-geek :)

    Latingal---thank you for taking the time to elaborate. I practiced this morning trying this technique (or what i think it is LOL!) and tried to experiment with what my foot is doing in relation to where my weight is. I'm pretty new to a lot of these details so i definitely want to make sure i don't have to undo a bad habit later (and rather importantly, preserve my feet for as long as possible!). I try to think of "illusions" rather than "working" (like grinding my foot into the floor). I need to play with this a lot more. But reading your posts have been most helpful.

    I had a huge improvement in my foot pointing (or the beginning of!) when someone suggested on pushing through the arch of my foot, rather than focusing on my toes. That helped considerably. So with the "inside edge" thing, i need to think more about it, and more about what creates this look rather than putting so much pressure into the floor and assuming that's how i get there.

    I do regularly see a massage therapist (and was seeing a rolfer as well) but i think i'm going to ask to pay special attention to my feet, ankles, and calves. And on a side note, i added a few ballet-style exercises to strengthen my feet. Never thought about training my feet before! LOL
  13. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    Good luck Miss Silly!

    One thing I did want to clarify though; I do feel a good amount of weight/pressure in to my feet - it's just at the point of the foot we discussed, NOT the inner edge of the big toe. The illusion is WHERE the pressure is put, not that there isn't any.

    It will be helpful if you find a good latin pro who can expound upon this with you. Weight in to the floor comes from a number of factors in your body, but you DO need to be grounded to handle the speed, balance and change of directions in latin.

    And an aside FYI - as for pointing the foot, another hint I could add is I think mostly of pointing my ankle and then extending the foot from that extension. You don't want to curl your toes under to point, you want to extend THROUGH the ankle, foot then the toes.
  14. scullystwin42

    scullystwin42 Active Member

    What's worked for me are custom orthotics from my podiatrist. They are designed for high heels, so they are not bulky and fit in my dance shoes. It keeps my sesamoiditis from affecting me, and also keeps away my tailor's bunions. I can still point my toes with them, so that's not lost. You may want to look into that as an option with a podiatrist - try to see if you can find one that has treated dancers of any kind. That's what I did, and I am so pleased with the results. The orthotics keep me dancing and keep me away from the surgical table!
  15. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    i'm working on this right now because, although i do not have an inflamed big toe joint, i do have a structural bunion and, as i'm focusing on getting a better line, if i press that bunion into the floor i can tell i'm quickly going to start disabling my feet.

    am hoping Angel's suggestions make a difference...
  16. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    that's encouraging to hear, LG.
  17. wooh

    wooh Well-Known Member

    A bunion thread exists that I have not typed the words, "yoga toes" on????
    Yoga toes.
  18. Miss Silly

    Miss Silly Active Member

    Latingal, THANK YOU so much for all your tips. I was able to ask the head instructor at the school and she said pretty much exactly what you said, but was able to demonstrate ;-P

    And also, the "pointe" tips were extremely helpful too. I was previously just using my toes rather than going 'through' my ankl and foot. You helped save me from a lot of foot damage! Thank you.
  19. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    Miss Silly, it sounds like you are on your way! So many things in latin are a bit illusionary, and this one is an important one if you want to save your feet! Am so glad you were able to get an actual demonstration of the correct way to use your feet! And it's good to hear you are now pointing through the ankle, foot and toes....you'll have beautiful leg lines if you master that (along with the correct angle to hold your leg).

    And sam, hope you're latin is going well!!
  20. Miss Silly

    Miss Silly Active Member

    Hahah yoga toes! I have something similar (but just for the big toe joint), they're like foot slings. I sleep with them on and it's remarkable how much they help. It makes me laugh cause the french portion of the packaging translates to "Farewell Onions".

    I another question and it's about toes and i'm not sure if this has been covered yet (sometimes doing forum searches aren't successful LOL). You know that look when say, in rumba walks, the foot that's travelling looks like it's dragging on the ground with a pointed toe? It's a very beautiful look. How is that accomplished? This kind of ties into me trying out my new Ray Rose shoes (Carmen 3) and with the larger space in the front for toes, it feels weird, like the lip of the shoe catches the floor. So i'm thinking it's my technique LOL. Maybe i need more of a "turn out" when i do this?

    (did that make sense?)

Share This Page